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14 Delightfully Geeky Wedding Cake Toppers

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We’ve seen geeky wedding invitations, wedding rings and wedding gowns, but now it’s time to look at the geeky sculptures resting on the top tier of the cake.

1. Futurama

This Futurama cake was spotted by Flickr user alanosaur at a friend’s wedding.

2. My Little Pony

DeviantArt user DeeKerry was commissioned to make these My Little Pony cake toppers for two of her recurring customers. Rainbow Dash is the bride’s favorite pony and Big Macintosh is the groom’s favorite, so the pieces perfectly represented the couple.

3. The Simpsons

Weddinator reader chemmy bought Simpsons action figures on eBay and painted and accessorized them so they would serve as great geeky cake toppers at his wedding.

4. Zombie Superheroes

Technically, these are collectable statues, not cake toppers, but they just happen to be the right size—plus, the idea of having Mary Jane and Spider Man in their Marvel Zombies versions (complete with a bloody wedding dress) would be all too perfect as a cake topper for any comic book geek's wedding. As a bonus, you could keep them on display at your house long after the ceremony is over.

5. Regular Superheroes

If you prefer DC and don’t want your heroes to be undead, then perhaps you’d prefer this amazing Black Canary and Green Arrow topper created by sculptor Kyla Richards for a wedding themed around the two comic book lovers.

6. Monty Python

When Offbeat Bride reader Spaz Girl was still getting to know her future husband, he happened to ask if she knew the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. When she responded “African or European?” he asked her out for coffee, and the rest is history.

Fans of Monty Python will, of course, recognize the reference from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. They’ll also see why it meant so much to the couple to get a custom cake topper featuring an African and a European swallow carrying a coconut together.

7. World Of Warcraft

With all the relationships that have started on MMOs like World of Warcraft, it’s no surprise that some of them want their avatars to be used on their cakes. If you’ve ever wished your Warcraft character could make an appearance at your wedding, then you should definitely talk to sculptor Paul Pape, who specializes in making custom cake toppers—many of which, like the one above, have been based on video game avatars.

8. Zelda

Melanie Murray wanted to surprise her geeky fiancé at their wedding, so she made this fantastic Zelda and Link cake topper and kept it a secret. I’m sure all you classic gamers can appreciate just how romantic and meaningful this gesture was.

9. Totally Custom

Garden Ninja has a number of great custom made cake toppers that not only look like the bride and groom, but also reflect their interests. In fact, whether you would rather be a zombie, kill zombies, or marry a monster, the site has you covered, with all kinds of unique cake topper designs.

10. Katamari

Image courtesy of vissago's Flickr stream.
Sam and Teri were on a roll (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) when they designed this amazing Katamari cake topper that features the Prince collecting the bouquet, champagne bottles, the cake, and the bride and groom themselves.

11. Adventure Time

DeviantArt user ImSodaHyper made this adorable Adventure Time cake topper—which features Fionna and Finn holding hands—out of clay. While they make a great team, I must say the wedding cake would look a little lonely if Jake and Cake didn’t make an appearance somewhere.

12. Super Mario Bros.

What’s the perfect way to top off a plate of Mario-mushroom-inspired cupcakes? I think Telitha and Jonathan had it right when they decorated their cupcake stand with customized Luigi and Daisy Bobble Heads.

13. Robots

If you wish your officiant would end the ceremony by announcing “I now pronounce you man and bot,” then you’ll certainly love these handmade robot cake toppers from Etsy seller RobotsAreAwesome.

14. Dr. Who

Fans of Doctor Who will tell you that while the Doctor has had many loves, his heart will always belong to the Tardis, particularly after she came alive in “The Doctor’s Wife.” That’s why this cake topper, by The Cake Kitchen, which features Doctor 11 and the TARDIS in her human form, is a perfect accent for any wedding cake, or in this case, a groom’s cake.

Even many traditional marriages still incorporate some slightly unique cake toppers as a way to celebrate the bride and groom’s individuality, so I’m sure many of our readers had one made for their big day. If yours was at all nerdy, please tell us about it in the comments—or even better, post a picture of it!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.